YAOUNDE, CAMEROON —
The Ebola scare has gripped Cameroon following reports that cases of the disease were imported from neighboring Nigeria.
Cameroon's minister of health has refuted the allegations.
Rumors that cases of the deadly Ebola virus had been detected at the government referral hospital in Douala, Cameroon, spread quickly.
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Marcel Fru, 17, said he learned from television news reports that two Nigerians were taken from the Douala airport to a hospital after the virus was detected in them.
Nigerians throng into Cameroon on a daily basis for business, vacation and fear of the militant group Boko Haram. The World Health Organization (WHO) says at least 10 cases of Ebola have been confirmed in Nigeria.
Some clergy and traditional rulers advised people to report any suspected cases of the disease.
But Minister of Health Andre Mama Fouda says the information about Nigerian Ebola victims in Cameroon is wrong.
"With regards to our country Cameroon, no suspected case has been reported until [this] date," Mama Fouda said. "But in preparation for a possible emergence of this disease, surveillance is strengthened in all the health districts at the borders, particularly at the level of all the health posts, airports and seaports."
Mama Fouda said since WHO declared Ebola an international public health emergency, they have worked with Nigeria to halt the spread of the disease.
"The Democratic Republic of Congo has provided us with two Ebola kits comprising 100 protective clothing for medical staff," he said.
University of Yaounde student Enanga Merci, 24, says the minister of health's message sounds reassuring.
"I felt very relieved because considering what I saw on the Internet on how the disease eats up people, its very very scary and demoralizing so when I got the news I was very happy and besides, the government cannot lie to us because they will have to tell us if the disease is in the country so we can take measures to protect ourselves from it," Merci said.
Cameroon has explained to its residents that there is no cure and no vaccine for Ebola, which has a high fatality rate.
Dr. Etoundi Mballa, of the country's vaccination program, says that as a forest zone, Cameroon is prone to the disease and urged people to change some of their habits.
Outbreaks of Ebola are life-threatening and in up to 90% of cases, people die.
- In most instances, outbreaks have occurred in remote villages of Central andWest Africa, close to tropical rainforests
- The virus is transmitted to humans from wild animals and spreads human-to-human through exposure to organs, blood and other bodily fluids
- Presently no specific treatment or vaccine is available for people, nor for animals
Content sourced from World Health Organization
He says Cameroon has lots of chimpanzees, monkeys and bats which local people eat and that it's possible for the virus to spread that way. Residents of Cameroon are now forbidden to bring home any animals discovered dead in the forest.
Somb Lingom eats bush meat and says it will be difficult to stop.
"Our parents, our forefathers ate bush meat and did not die," he said. "I don't know why the government should be forbidding people from eating it. Anyway, as far as I am concerned, I will continue eating it, just making sure that the meat is well cooked."
The U.N. reports that unlike previous outbreaks of the Ebola virus, which occurred in isolated areas, the West African epidemic erupted in places with more traffic, trade and freedom of movement, making it easier for the disease to spread.